10 Best Marathons For Beginners (In The USA)

The 10 Best Marathons For Beginners (Find the Perfect Race for You)

If you are new to running, taking on a big challenge like a marathon can be intimidating. Fortunately, plenty of marathons in the United States are perfect for beginners.

Here is a list of the 10 best marathons for beginners in the USA. From flat courses to scenic routes, these races offer something for everyone looking to take their first steps into the marathon.

The Best Marathons for Beginners (Enjoy the Flat Courses)

MarathonTime LimitMonth
Napa Valley Marathon6 hoursMarch
Fargo Marathon7 hoursMay
The OC Marathon7 hoursMay
Flying Pig Marathon7 hoursMay
Walt Disney World Marathon7 hoursJanuary
Ogden Marathon7 hoursMay
Twin Cities Marathon6 hours 15 minutesOctober
Steamtown Marathon6 hoursOctober
Philadelphia Marathon7 hoursNovember
Portland Marathon6 hours 30 minutesOctober

Note: Each marathon has a maximum time limit. Some marathons may also have specific points along the course that you need to reach at certain times. You may have to leave the race, or the fuel stations may be closed if you do not get to these points within the specified time. Always check each marathon’s exact time limits and course cut-off times, as they might change.

1. Napa Valley Marathon

Where: Napa County, California
When: March
Time Limit: 6 hours

Starting our list is this beautiful and scenic marathon, located in California’s Napa Valley (this marathon is also on our list of the 10 most scenic marathons in the US).

One of the reasons that it’s a great marathon for beginners to try is its wonderful vistas because they’ll make the kilometers fly by.

On the point to point distance from Calistoga to Napa, you’ll see lush green hills, fascinating vineyards, and some of California’s very best wineries. 

On top of that, the Napa Valley Marathon also has an outstanding reputation for supporting their runners, meaning that beginners will find the care and help they might need to complete the event.

Additionally, a half marathon was established there in 2019. For beginners who are cautious of a full marathon, this is a welcoming, pleasant way to ease into it.

The exact dates of these marathons can vary from year to year. Check the official websites for the most up-to-date information.

2. Fargo Marathon

Where: Fargo, North Dakota
When: May
Time Limit: 7 hours

A small town marathon is always a great choice, especially for beginners, because it allows you to soak up some small town charm while you’re running.

With the Fargo Marathon, you’ll be able to choose between a full marathon or a half marathon, making it especially welcoming for newcomers, and see some lovely sites. 

On top of that, there’s a section of the marathon where townsfolk from Fargo will cheer you on, filling you with the motivation you need, as well as DJs and live bands to accompany you with some tunes.

Some of these events have other races, such as half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks, that take place on the same or different dates.

3. The OC Marathon

Where: Costa Mesa, California
When: May
Time Limit: 7 hours

This marathon is a good pick for beginners for a few reasons, one being the spectacular views that runners can enjoy and be spurred on by.

They’ll see the glorious Pacific Ocean, small Orange County villages, and LA neighborhoods all in one event. 

On top of that, it also has just a small amount of elevation, giving runners a sense of verticality but not exhausting them with it. 

  • A good marathon time for a beginner is about 5 or 6 hours.
  • Many people can walk a marathon in 6 to 8 hours.
  • To cover a marathon in 6 hours, you’ll have to average 13:43 minutes per mile.
  • To cover a marathon in 6 1/2 hours, you’ll have to average 14:52 minutes per mile.
  • To cover a marathon in 7 hours, you’ll have to average 16 minutes per mile.

Note that you need to allow time for restroom breaks and fueling during the race. It is suggested that you train for a faster pace to allow time for any diversions that might come up (for example, instead of 16 minutes per mile, aim for 15 minutes per mile).

4. Flying Pig Marathon

Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
When: May
Time Limit: 7 hours

The focus of this marathon is all about taking part, whether you’re a runner, a walker, or a watcher.

This welcoming attitude is part of what makes it a great choice for beginners, because all are welcome, in any capacity. 

For beginners struggling, courtesy vans will help you, and there’s other assistance to ensure you’re never left behind. It’s a fun, inclusive event, with exciting views and a communal feel.

5. Walt Disney World Marathon

Where: Orlando, Florida
When: January
Time Limit: 7 hours

This marathon is held in Florida, where the course takes you through Walt Disney World theme parks. The course is relatively easy, partly because the route between theme parks is a smooth and flat (and dull) highway.

But if you like a fun and festive atmosphere (who wouldn’t), then this is for you. It is fun to run in theme parks, and entertainment keeps you motivated.

10 Best Marathons For Beginners (In The USA) (1)

6. Ogden Marathon

Where: Ogden, Utah
When: May
Time Limit: 7 hours

Although the Ogden Marathon has some beautiful forest paths and hill views, it provides them all with a very manageable amount of elevation, providing beginners with all the feeling of a climb-heavy marathon but none of the exhaustion.

Runner’s World has voted this one of the best US courses for beginners, so you can be sure that it’s an event that’s going to ease you into the world of marathons well.

It’s been praised for its diverse range of entrants too, with elite competitive runners and beginners both enjoying it side by side.

7. Twin Cities Marathon

Where: Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
When: October
Time Limit: 6 hours 15 minutes

There are often multiple types of events to choose from, besides the regular marathon, and all the events have been deliberately enhanced with experiences for new runners.

As a result, you can be sure that there will be other beginners alongside you, and this creates an atmosphere of support and encouragement to push you on.

As for the marathon course, the event takes place in fall, which means you’ll be surrounded by towering trees shedding their orange leaves – scenic!

8. Steamtown Marathon

Where: Scranton, Pennsylvania
When: October
Time Limit: 6 hours

You may never have visited this area in Pennsylvania, and the Steamtown Marathon will give you a wonderful tour through the history of Northeast PA, running from Forest City to Scranton.

Runner’s World has also named this one of the best courses for beginners, though it’s worth noting there are some downhills and uphills that will prove tiring. However, pushing through them will make you feel great.

9. Philadelphia Marathon

Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: November
Time Limit: 7 hours

Over to a Pennsylvania place that you’ve more likely visited, the Philadelphia Marathon is one of the United States’ largest marathons. As a result, it’s full of people of all skill levels, making it a great fit for beginners.

Better yet, the course is very flat, allowing beginners to more easily enjoy the great sights and landmarks of Philly. 

10. Portland Marathon

Where: Portland, Oregon
When: October
Time Limit: 6 hours 30 minutes

Finally, the Portland Marathon suits beginners for a number of reasons. For one, the course is open for 8 hours, giving plenty of time to finish, and it’s mostly flat.

On top of that, there are wonderful city sights, mixed with waterfront views, and you get prizes at the end. It’s a course that’s just the right level of challenge, as well as being picturesque.

If you are not yet ready for a full marathon, here is a great shorter race for you:

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon, 10K and 5K

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
When: February

This event offers some of the most unique sights you’ll get, taking in both the sweeping Las Vegas Valley and then the neon-lit streets of the Las Vegas Strip at night.

This makes it a particularly thrilling experience for first time marathon-goers, who get to see Las Vegas in a way they’d never get to otherwise.

Final Thoughts

Marathons are fantastic feats, and the right race can kick-start your running career. Whether you prefer a flat course or a scenic route, these marathons are perfect for beginners.

If you train and prepare properly, you should be able to run a marathon without a problem!

Once you’ve cleared your first beginner-friendly marathon, you can start preparing for the next one. Here is our list of most popular bucket list marathons in the US.

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